Laura Hale Bennewitz ’73, Grady College graduate and mother of four, including Katie Bennewitz ’01 and current UGA 3rd year student Tom Bennewitz, is the three time winner of the Taste of Home event sponsored by UGA Food Services. On January 12, Laura welcomed the Alumni Association into her kitchen to learn more about her and her award-winning recipes.
Laura gained interest in the Taste of Home program when her son became a student and she knew he would be dependent on the meal program at UGA. To develop her Taste of Home award-winning recipes Laura said, “I just started thinking about what might go together. They originated in my head and I went from there to gradually improve them.”
Many factors were in involved in the development of Laura’s award-winning recipes, especially the consideration of culture and varied diets.
“Once I visited East Campus Village and saw the diversity of the students, I began to think about the different types of food that students would be interested in,” said Laura. “UGA is becoming more and more diverse, and I realized that many students from outside of the United States were accustomed to eating meals without meat.
With nutrition a particular interest of Laura’s as well as attention to diversity, meatless and nutritious dishes is what she decided to concentrate on making.
A creative and nutritious meal is nothing new for Laura. “When you cook for four kids you learn to cook creatively and nutritionally. Dinner at home with the family is what I am accustomed to. Traditional meals around important events are really enjoyed by my family, so I have always wanted to make interesting meals that everybody would like.”
The dynamics of family meal time is where Laura’s passion for cooking comes from and the cultural trend of how people in the United States eat is an interest to her.
“Eating has become such a fast food activity,” said Laura. “Instead of eating for nutritional purposes, we have become more interested in what tastes good and not what is best for us in the long run.”
It is the nutritional aspect of eating for hunger and not just what tastes good that Laura appreciates and praises recently deceased UGA professor from the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Dr. Glenn W. Burton’s efforts in this field.
“One of his primary projects was developing grazing grasses for animals to feed on in third world countries,” said Laura.
“The result of his work enabled countries to triple their output of grain, feeding and saving the lives of millions of people. He won over 700 awards for his research and activities in helping to eliminate world hunger.”
While Laura’s recipes may not help eliminate world hunger, they will certainly satisfy the taste buds and nutritional requirements of the students who eat these dishes.
Of the three she has submitted, Wild Rice, 2003 winner; Spicy Rice, 2004 winner, it is this past year’s winner, Spinach Rice that is her favorite.
“It is so good, especially for girls who need calcium in their diet,” said Laura.
Other family members have personal favorites as well, “My husband really likes the Spicy Rice. My son, Tom, likes Spicy Rice with crackers when it’s right out of the oven and the cheese is really soft.”
Whether it’s Spinach, Wild or Spicy, all three rice dishes are winners of the Taste of Home.
Below are Laura’s recipes.
Wild Rice - selected for 2003 Taste of Home
13 ozs. chicken broth 6 ozs. package Uncle Ben's Long Grain and Wild Rice Mix 11 ozs. can mandarin oranges, drained 8 ozs. can sliced water chestnuts, drained 1/4 cup sliced green onions 1/3 cup mayonnaise Reserve 2 Tablespoons broth Add enough water to remaining broth to substitute for water in rice package directions. Cook and simmer rice according to directions, leaving out butter or margarine. Spread in bowl to cool. Stir in oranges, water chestnuts, green onions. Blend reserved broth with mayo and stir into rice mixture. Cover and chill. Makes six servings.
Spicy Rice - selected for 2004 Taste of Home
1 cup rice, white, long-grained 2 cups water 1 chicken bouillon cube 16 oz. sour cream (room temperature) 6 oz. Colby cheese, shredded (4 ounces goes on top) 4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded 4 oz. can chopped green chilies, not drained _ cup chopped red bell pepper 1/8 teaspoon pepper
Mix rice, water and bouillon cube together and simmer 15 to 20 minutes. Combine remaining ingredients. Turn into a buttered dish with cooked rice. Top with _ cup shredded Colby cheese. Bake 20-25 minutes.
Spinach Rice - selected for 2005 Taste of Home
4 ozs. Feta cheese, crumbled 6 cups spinach, fresh shredded 1 cup uncooked rice 1 cup chicken broth 1 cup water 1 medium onion, chopped 1 cup mushrooms, sliced 2 cloves minced garlic 1 tablespoon lemon juice _ teaspoon dried oregano
Combine rice, broth, water and bring to boil Simmer for 15 minutes. In a skillet, cook onion, mushrooms, garlic in oil until tender. Add lemon juice and oregano. Add spinach, cheese, mushroom mixture, freshly ground pepper to rice. Toss until spinach wilts. Garnish with chopped pimento (optional).